Bronzite, faceted smoky quartz, and mookaite for inspiration.

WIPChrysoprase beads and silver necklace.
Sometimes one has the urge to torch things. At such times, it helps a great deal if one remembers to have one’s propane torches filled up and ready to go. That is something I failed to do and to complicate matters, my butane torch, the workhorse of my jewelry making adventures, went kaput. There is always the scary hot MAPP gas torch which I use for serious stuff, like reticulation, but it is no fun to use on hot and humid days. The thing to do then is get beady. Today, I am making silver leaves that will be dapped and hammered to form a necklace along with chrysoprase beads. I am not quite sure whether this design is the one I want. I could use silver beads and add cabochons–perhaps opal or moonstone–the the leaves. That would call for soldering and soldering calls for a new butane torch. It seems that I will have to buy one anyway. In order to dangle gracefully, those leaves need soldered findings–loops. Drilling the top of the leaf and inserting a wire loop might work too. I will experiment.
Against my better judgement, I agreed to do a show in Maryland, in autumn. Junior is all for it. Her homemade soap and felted bags are usually a hit and she gets to meet other artisans. My jewelry is too expensive for country fairs and at best I sell half a dozen pieces. The good thing is that a couple of the buyers might become loyal patrons, returning to commission new projects. All in all, we artisans work for the love of the craft. Few of us are able to leave their day jobs and yet we persist, knowing that we are competing with ill-paid Third Word craftspeople for whom a dollar an hour an acceptable salary. My hometown has a silver shop that sells jewelry made in Bali and India and the Smithsonian sells quilts made in China. I am not sure who benefits from globalization. Perhaps it is good that the Balinese, Indians get paid a dollar an hour. I have slightly higher overhead and therefore I need a better salary that is better than that. Perhaps it is ethical to buy inexpensive crafts made by Chinese political prisoners whose working conditions would give OSHA inspector cardiac arrest. You get decide; Third World craftspeople usually cannot.

First cucumbers ever to be harvest at Brambles.
Spring pansies still going strong.

An elegantly dressed bug, saved from a watery death.

First passion fruit.

Glorious gloriosa daisy.

Hydrangeas, daisies and the love of three oranges.

The ideal, Better Home and Gardens.

The reality, my craft room.

The ideal, from Better Homes and Gardens. The reality, my writing room.

Sterling silver pin with citrine briolet, pearls and garnets


“Control of chaos is the stabilization, by means of small system perturbations, of one of these unstable periodic orbits. The result is to render an otherwise chaotic motion more stable and predictable, which is often an advantage. The perturbation must be tiny, to avoid significant modification of the system’s natural dynamics.”

I think of in German, machen ordnung, to make order. It is a brutal process that requires a brutal language. Basically I have to tear a place apart before I can rearrange in a way that allows me to use for a certain purpose. In this case, the space is my study, the place where I use to conduct interviews and write, back when I worked for commercial newspapers. After I decided to write for non-profit organisations, I moved my writing quarters to another room and remade my former office into a silversmith’s office.

Formally trained silversmiths usually have immaculate work spaces. They arrange their jeweller’s benches according to an age old pattern. That makes sense. Much of silversmithing is precise work. It requires orderly surroundings. many silversmithing tools are delicate and expensive. Some rust easily and it does not do to neglect them.

Having said that, I will admit to keeping my bench in an apparent state of chaos. That is, to a trained silversmith my bench looks like a pigsty. Yet I can find my tools blindfolded. It is true that I have only killed two sets of aviation grade cutters, but that happened over a period of eight years and I have learnt not to use them to hold piece of silver I am heating wth a MAPP (liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mixed with methylacethylenepropadiene) gas torch. The combustion temperature of MAPP gas 5300 °F ( 2927 °C ), great for melting silver and one’s good, expensive aviation cutters.
Here and there I make a piece of jewelry that makes someone happy. It is a skill to have. Writing is cleaner, but the creative process is no sweeter than making a drawing and rendering it into metal. I practice both crafts in rooms where there must be some order–my kind of order, not decorator magazine’s prissy, photographable prettiness. See for yourself.

Vintage Japanese textile from my collection

Andean knitted cap from my collection

See the BLUE exhibit scheduled to run for another month at the Textile Museum, 2320 S Street, NW Washington, DC. The show includes fragments of Greco-Roman and PreColumbian textiles, but my real interest is the work of of artists Hiroyuki Shindo, who grows and processes his indigo to make patterned textiles using the shibori method dating back to the 8th. century CE. While kanoko shibori may be considered the equivalent of western tie-dye or bound-resist, muira, humo, nui and arashi shibori include looped binding, stitching and binding, pleating, and wrapping sections of cloth around a pole in order to create a pattern.

My own small collection of vintage textiles includes few lengths of shiboridyed fabric from Japan, as well as a few Andean knitted and woven pieces. I cherish the creative and the work that went into making them and that is why the prospect of seeing a carefully curated exhibit appeals to me. Junior, an avid knitter who dyes yarn with flowers grown for that purpose, shares my interest both exhibits. I think we will wait until school is in session again. I find museums more enjoyable without the strident presence of busloads of children and teachers. Not that I dislike children. It is just that for me, looking at textiles is a meditative occupation. I recall only too clearly a kimono exhibit I attended some years at the National Art Gallery. The kimonos were glorious, but it was impossible to focus on anything but children running around, teachers loudly admonishing running children. As for loud adults who run around making loud comments in museums, well, I find them unpleasant too. Perhaps I have a provincial’s reverence for art. Perhaps I am on my way to becoming a curmudgeon. Whatever.
Quiet is best. Quiet is best. Quite is best. Quiet is best. Quiet is best, @#$%^&!

A child is dead. In a community as small as ours, the children belong to all of us. This one was lost and perhaps none of us knew the right way to help. We share a sense of failed and regret. That this child’s vanishing does not leave a visible rent in the universe is a mystery. It saddens and angers us that all that might have been is gone forever. We grieve for the family and for the community. Something in each of has flown away. We are diminished.

Black Eyed Susans, perovskia and dill with a Wardian case of sorts in the background.
Think Victorian passions, think pteridomania, think The French Lieutenant’s Woman, think Queen Victoria’s watercolors, Francis Kilvert’s journal. Think ferns, think Wardian case, the first ever terrarium, invented in 1829 by a doctor who sought to protect his ferns from London’s polluted air. Fast forward to the present and think about the role of Pteris vittata, the Chinese Brake Fern in detoxing hazardous waste sites. The process is called phytoremediation.
According to Environmental Protection Agency, 20, 000 fern plants are hard at work filtering arsenic from what was once an apple orchard in Crozet, Virginia where the trees were routinely sprayed with insecticides cointaining lead arsenate. The use of these chemicals was banned in 1970, but
” Today, there are still areas of the site contaminated with arsenic that poses an unacceptable risk to public, ” says EPA’s Myles Barto.
Rather than to rely the traditional method of digging up and disposing of the contaminated soil, the EPA opted for phytoremediation.
“Depending on weather and soil conditions, and the length of the growing season, each fern can extract up to 40-50 mg/kg arsenic from a square foot of soil.” says Barto, adding that ” The result is significantly less waste, perhaps one or two truckloads of waste, rather than 60 or 70 of soil. This technology has been used at several sites around the country but is still considered as an ‘alternative’ when it is compared to traditional techniques.”